‘It Finally Hit Home’
How Kim Scott and the ACLU came to represent 1,400 Iraqis deported by ICE
Published in 2022 Michigan Super Lawyers magazine on August 8, 2022
In June 2017, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), arrested more than 100 Iraqis in raids throughout metropolitan Detroit. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, arguing that if the petitioners, many of whom were Chaldean Christians, returned to Iraq, they face persecution, torture or death.
“They were to be deported within a few days,” says Kim Scott, a litigator at Miller Canfield. “The local legal community rallied to find volunteer attorneys to represent them in immigration court to stay the deportation and reopen their immigration cases.”
Scott would become involved not in immigration court, but in federal court, as class counsel on Hamama v. Adducci.
“As we started working through the case,” she says, “it became clearer and clearer that ICE was having difficulties with removing our class members to Iraq. The focus then became trying to get our clients out of detention, because if it wasn’t clear that ICE could deport Iraqis, there was no justification for keeping them within detention.”
For years, the clients in Hamama v. Adducci had been reporting to ICE under orders of supervision, because ICE was not able to deport them to Iraq, Scott says. “Our clients have been in the U.S. for decades, and started families and engaged in business. They were part of the local community, and all of a sudden they were rounded up.”
Sam Hamama, the lead plaintiff, is one of those community members. “Because he wasn’t deported right away, he was able to go through his immigration process and he has become a naturalized citizen,” says Scott.
“Now I get to watch his children grow up, graduate from college, go to medical school; it’s just amazing to see the entire impact that it has had on his family and his children.”
Hamama’s is just one story of many. The class is roughly 1,400 people, most of them from the Detroit area, and their case was in settlement negotiations at press time.
“On a monthly basis, we hear about the successes immigration attorneys are having in the courts—that somebody got asylum, somebody was able to change their immigration status so they can stay,” Scott says.
Hamama v. Adducci is a particularly good fit because of Scott’s discovery skills. “I have managed large, bet-the-company-type litigation that involved 20, 30 depositions and millions and millions of pages of documents,” she says. “We knew it was going to involve a lot of people working on the case just because of the number of class members and how fast this was moving.
“When this case came along and I started working on it,” she adds, “I felt invigorated with the practice of law and I felt like what lawyers hold in their hands with regards to other people’s lives finally hit home. I still get chills thinking about the first phone calls we got from our clients when they got out of detention. I get emotional when I think about it—about how much we’ve impacted the community and not just our clients, but their families and extended families.”
Concurrent with Hamama v. Adducci, Scott handled a pro se case on behalf of a prisoner who alleged the Michigan Department of Corrections forced prisoners to stand outside in inclement weather. “And with a prison population that has a high percentage of individuals with asthma, it caused illness,” Scott says.
Scott doesn’t view her pro bono work as an extracurricular activity. “You don’t see this as anything different than your normal caseload. It’s one more case that you just manage to find the time to do,” she says. “This is part of my practice.”